The Dawson County middle school wrestling team had locked their berth in the League Championship on Friday, Dec. 13 earlier in the season with a team win over Union County. Expecting to enter the tournament as the fourth and final seed, Head Coach Andrew Grigsby and his squad were eager for the chance to battle for the title.
Instead, as so often happens in the world of sports, chaos ensued on Dec. 11, the final night of the regular season.
A pair of underdog wins from the Union and White county middle school programs, followed by a Tigers loss to Clear Creek resulted in a three-way tie for third place. Suddenly, with five teams qualified for what was supposed to be a four-team championship the league was unclear on how to proceed.
Several options were discussed, ranging from starting the tournament with the No. 1 team on bye while 2-5 wrestled through to holding a ‘pigtail’ match in which No. 4 battled No. 5 for the final slot in the championship bout.
Ultimately, due to time-constraints, it was decided that three teams locked in the tie – Dawson, Union and White counties, would wrestle each other for the third-place trophy in a two-round mini-tournament, while top seeded Clear Creek would go head-to-head with No. 2 Lumpkin County to determine the league champs.
A simple coin toss was used to determine the seeding for the opening round of the third-place battle and Dawson County found themselves matched up with White County to begin the competition.
After a tight battle between two evenly matched teams the Tigers eked out a one-point victory by the final score of 45-44 to advance into the trophy round against Union County.
Facing a well-rested team, the Tigers, once again, found themselves locked into a close match that wasn’t decided until the final fight. In the end, Dawson County squeezed out a second victory, this time by a three-point margin, to bring home the third-place hardware.
Clear Creek handily defeated Lumpkin County for the championship trophy which, under normal conditions, would have set them up for a rematch with the Dawson team. In this case, the night was over and the Tigers were denied a shot at the title, a situation Coach Grigsby realistically addressed in his post-game comments.
“It would have been great to get a shot at the trophy, but Clear Creek pretty cleanly beat us in the regular season,” Grigsby said. “We did the best we could do on Friday night and it paid off big for the kids.”
Day two of the Middle School Championship featured the Traditional round in which wrestlers competed within their weight class for individual honors instead of as a team.
For the second day in a row the Dawson County program featured prominently in the rankings as seven Tigers brought home medals and/or league honors.
In his first year with the Tigers, Landon Glander won the 74-pound weight class to finish the season with a record of 21-1.
Landon Barr picked up the gold medal in the 125-pound category after a tough bout with fellow Tiger Sean Emerson, who settled for the silver medal in his first year with the team.
“The last match is always the hardest,” Barr said. “It’s the finals, it has the two best wrestlers.”
Jack McCarthy and Colton Schuette brought home bronze medals at 110-pounds and 155-pounds respectively, while Zac Cruz at 147-pounds and Kennedy Norton at 210-pounds snagged league honors with fourth place finishes.
“Despite the late night at Union on Friday and the 5:45a departure time to return to Union Saturday morning the kids wrestled very hard,” Grigsby said.
The two-day tournament marked the end of the season for the middle school team. The Tigers finished the year with an overall record of 10-6.